This disc of folk music from the Andes is a colourful excursion through the highest reaches of Perù, Ecuador and Bolivia.
The music is enthusiastically performed by Rukanas and friends—friends indeed who add extra layers of tone and depth to flesh out the music where required.
Essentially, there’s much wind (from quena through maltas to waqrapukus—single or multi-tubed recorders and pipes), string (guitar, mandolin, charango, walaycho, violin) a covey of percussion—notably the cajon, featured in “Mal Paso” as well as electric bass and keyboard to keep things moving along.
On some tracks, this rainbow of sound provides accompaniment to vocals (and on one occasion a cow or two!) that deliver the lyrics of love and fun with zest, vigour and near-perfect intonation.
Curiously, in the first two numbers, the sense of oneness of pulse and ensemble falls a nickel short of being secure and settled. Yet once the metronome falls a notch, “San Juacum,” the band finds its groove (punctuated by breathy low winds and the weave of a rare countermelody into the mix) and the party begins in earnest.
The quick waltz that follows provides metric variety and a few dollops of jazzy riffs complemented by soothing brushes. A pair of instantly engaging, marvellously different offerings make the middle songs—like a thickly filled meat sandwich—the best part of the musical meal.
The recorder-rich “Toril” is a brilliant ode to bullfights and cattle roundups that only requires dynamic variety and real improvisation to move it from the realm of great to exceptional. Then, “Dulce Retoñ/;o”—kicked off by aggressive winds—catches fire and (aided and abetted by the addition of the zampoña cromatica) makes anyone envious of Bolivians who can hear the same frenzied music at every “carnavalito” that comes their way.
Also appealing is “Sabes que te Quiero”—an easy-going ballad (all ballads on this album push rather than slowly tease their way into our hearts: must be in the blood) that is peppered with a burst of virtuoso, macho-scale to seal the kiss (indeed, the rudimentary scale finds new life throughout these charts as a device to glue the sections together). The energy of “Selección de Carnavales” never quits and its Western music classical-overture finish seems globally appropriate. JWR